Renowned celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who tragically passed away in 2018, once visited Baltimore to film an episode titled "Rust Belt" for his Travel Channel show "No Reservations." Although he wasn't particularly kind to the city in the episode, he did highly recommend three restaurants that truly embody the unique culture and cuisine of Baltimore: Chaps Pit Beef, Mo's Crab and Pasta Factory (now Mo's Seafood), and The Roost.
As a food critic, Bourdain built a legacy of introducing others to different food cultures around the world on a variety of different travel shows like "Parts Unknown" and "The Layover." During his 2009 episode (Season 5, Episode 13) of "No Reservations," Bourdain also stopped by restaurants in Detroit and Buffalo in addition to the three in Baltimore to tour the flavors of America's Rust Belt. Bourdain's take on Baltimore seemed to evolve by the end of the episode, and he acknowledged its friendly people, unique food, and thriving arts scene while not glossing over its problems.
If you're planning to visit Baltimore and want to experience some of the local cuisines, be sure to check out the episode then make a reservation at one of these great restaurants.
Chaps Pit Beef
The first spot Bourdain visits—accompanied by "The Wire" actor Jay Landsman—is Chaps Pit Beef. Although it's located in a strip club parking lot just off the Pulaski Highway on the east side of the city, Chaps is quite popular in Baltimore for its namesake pit-beef sandwiches and homestyle side dishes.
Landman and Bourdain stick with the favorite pit beef sandwich, but the menu also features all sorts of Baltimore barbecue favorites like pork ribs by the pound, open-faced beef platters, chicken wings and tenders, and a variety of pit, specialty, and two-meat sandwiches. Sides include fresh-cut French fries with or without gravy; homemade baked beans, green beans, cole slaw, and mac & cheese; mac and potato salads; and green peppers, onions, and stewed tomatoes.
Most dishes cost less than 10 dollars, and you can easily get a full meal here for under 20 as well. However, Chaps does not have a proper dining section, so you'll have to take this delicious meal to go if you want to enjoy it. Additionally, there are now other Chaps locations in Aberdeen and Frederick, Maryland, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Next, Bourdain stops by Mo's Seafood with Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, also an actor from "The Wire," to try a plate of oysters, a crab cake he describes as football-sized, a bowl of garlic crab in the shell, and a sample platter of almost every seafood item on the menu accompanied by a local cocktail called "The Obama."
Although the original location that Bourdain visited closed down, the restaurant's dishes live on at four other locations in Inner Harbor and Eastpoint, Baltimore, as well as in Towson and Middle River. Specials at the Eastpoint location include a crab trio, a jumbo lump crab cake with seared scallops, a surf and turf plate, and stuffed lobster tail.
Shells Deli 365 at The Roost
During the final part of the Baltimore segment on "No Reservations," Bourdain visits The Roost for lake trout, collard greens, and mac and cheese, which he describes as "tasty...and cheap—a meal for increasingly hard times."
Although the Roost closed permanently in 2006, you can still sample its famous fish sandwich at the Shells Deli 365 at The Roost in the same location. Featuring a menu full of soul food, including made-to-order breakfast and lunch specials, Deli 365 is a great place to try some of Baltimore's local cuisine.